Islam, Afrocentrism, and Libations.

One of the basic fallacies of Afrocentrism is the notion that simply because “da African ancestors” adhered to certain theological or spiritual beliefs that somehow those spiritual beliefs are beneficial to Black people today in the fight against white supremacy. Let’s put this fundamental assumption to the test. 

Outlining the theological beliefs of some adherents to traditional African faith,  in Libation: An Afrikan Ritual of Heritage in the Circle of Life, Kimani S. K. Nehusi indicates that alcohol in libations “varies according to the god. It is sweet liquor if it is Damballa, rum for Ogun, Loco or Legba.” In Drink, power, and culture change: A social history of alcohol in Ghana, c.1800  Emmanuel Akyeampong, a professor of history and African and African American Studies, writes that among the Akan people of Ghana, alcohol consumption was considered a sacred ritual which “bridged the gap between the physical and spiritual worlds.”

In the Islamic tradition, however, the Qu’ran teaches “Shaytan only desires to cause enmity and hatred to spring in your midst by means of intoxicants and games of chance, and to keep you off from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer. Will you then desist?”  The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him,  also stated: “Allah has cursed alcohol, the one who drinks it, the one who pours it, the one who sells it, the one who buys it, the one who squeezes (the grapes etc), the one for whom it is squeezed, the one who carries it and the one to whom it is carried (Abu Dawood (3674) and Ibn Maajah (3380) .” 

Unlike several African theologies in which alcohol consumption is considered to be sacred and key to accessing the spirit world, Islam considers alcoholic beverages a tool of satan and declares its consumption to be divinely forbidden. 

In Alcohol and the Atlantic trade, North Carolina A&T state professor and anthropologist  Frederick H. Smith writes that “European slave traders were expected to provide alcoholic beverages to all those involved in the securing slaves.” In order for Europeans to kidnap Africans and bring them to the Americas to work as slaves, these Europeans would offer alcoholic beverages to adherents of traditional African spiritualities, in exchange for slaves.  Significantly, Smith writes “the only exception to the alcohol-for-slaves model was in the northern stretches of the slave trade where Islam was strongly entrenched.”  

In Alcohol in Colonial African, lynn Pan writes that the widespread prevalence of alcohol for slaves system resulted in many Africans believing that  “liquor of the so-called Christian nations which was causing havoc among Africans.”  As a result, “Islam’s restraining influence on the use of spirits” appealed  to “African chiefs anxious to maintain sobriety among their people.” In fact, this reality spurred conversions  among adherents of traditional African faiths to Islam.



Conveying to Black America What Islam Is

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